Trump says U.S. paid no money to North Korea over Warmbier

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FILE PHOTO: Fred and Cindy Warmbier follow the casket of their son, Otto Wambier, to the hearse after his funeral at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said the United States did not pay any money to North Korea as it sought the release of Otto Warmbier, a day after a report said Trump had approved a $2 million bill from Pyongyang for the American student’s care.

“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump had approved payment of a $2 million bill from North Korea to cover its care of the college student, who died six days after he was returned to the United States comatose after 17 months in a North Korean prison.

The Treasury Department received the bill from North Korea and it remained unpaid through 2017, the Post reported. It was not clear whether the administration paid the invoice later.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia student from Ohio visiting North Korea as a tourist, was imprisoned in January 2016. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan from his hotel, North Korean state media said.

An Ohio coroner said Warmbier died from a lack of oxygen and blood to his brain. North Korea, which has dismissed claims that it tortured the student, blamed botulism and a sleeping pill.

Last December, a U.S. court ordered North Korea to pay $501 million in damages for the torture and death of Warmbier.

Representatives for the White House and the State Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Makini Brice and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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